How fortunate I am to have had like-minded folks own the farm before me! They planted apples, pears, and peaches (Yes, in Minnesota!), and I get to reap the rewards. The bounty this last summer gave me a chance to try out a number of recipes for liqueurs, butters, sauces, and pie filling, as well as dehydrated slices. The four-legged orchard mowers enjoyed the thinnings.
I’ve increased the original plantings with an additional 11 apples I grafted and 4 purchased cultivars. The additions are mostly cider apples: ‘Roxbury Russet'(5), ‘Golden Russet'(4), ‘Ashmead’s Kernel'(1), and ‘Kingston Black'(1). After I’ve worked out sweet cider, I intend to tackle hard cider and vinegars.
My plan is to transition the orchard to organic and, to that end, took part in a mentorship program through Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) with the owner of Two Brothers Orchard in Wisconsin. The management of the insect pests and soil fertility will be a challenge, but I feel the chemical-free product will be worth it.
The nut planting is all my doing. My work as Research Associate at Badgersett Research Corporation has strengthened my original interest in growing nuts for food, feed, and wood. My first 63 hickory-pecan hybrids fared poorly in the extended drought of 2012. I replanted in 2013 in part with a dozen hybrid chestnut trees. I also beefed up my protection for the young plants with stronger sheep exclusion (2 posts and a 2′ diameter ring of welded wire) and protection from the persistent winds (row cover). The suspense mounts as spring nears when the tally of survivors will be made again.